By on May 19, 2010

Long rumored to be arriving, the Chevy Malibu has now, finally, arrived! It is yet another car to be mused over by import crazed Brazilians. It comes in LTZ guise with a 2.4L gasoline-only engine that’s good for 171 ponies. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that allows manual shifting. And it’s loaded to the gills (at least by Brazilian standards) with 6 airbags, ABS, stability control, automatic A/C, and even (by gosh!) electrically-adjusted and heated seats, remote start key, 18 inch aluminum wheels and, last but not least, an audio system with CD and MP3 with 8 speakers (according to Bestcars). All of this for a princely 89,000 Brazilian reais or $49,900 (at 1.8 real to the dollar).

No, I won’t go there this time, but, but (sadly, there always seems to be a but or two)…

Why now? Isn’t the new Malibu coming out in 6 month’s time? Is GM foisting leftovers on hapless Brazilians? Will GM send slightly banged-up stamping tools to make this car in Brazil, liked in the bad old days? Or is GM just testing the waters, and if we bite, will they bring the new Malibu to Brazil? Is GM doing this only to increase foot traffic at dealers at a time when the new Fiat Uno is grabbing all the attention (see my next article for more on this)?

There is a market for this kind of car in Brazil. Ford’s Fusion and Hyundai’s Azera sell about 800 of each every month.  But, GM seems late to the party, and wearing clothes that look like hand-me-downs. Is GM counting on Brazilians being so disconnected that they don’t know anything and will buy this car like there’s no tomorrow? Will the hapless Brazilian consumer be stuck with a car with a run of a year or less and all the attendant difficulties in terms of parts, depreciation, etc.?

So, GM will bring this car for a year or thereabouts, and then substitute it with the new one? Or abandon the market yet again? And, again, sacrifice their good name in the Brazilian market? Tell me, how is this good for GM? Is GM willing to tarnish their good standing in the big car market in Brazil just for the sake of flipping some leftovers?

So many questions. Does this make the Malibu a questionable car?

The mind boggles. And the lights seem to be out at the RenCen.

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31 Comments on “GM Do Brasil Imports Malibu! Why, Oh Why?...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    electrically-adjusted and heated seats

    Ah heated seats – just the thing to get you through those long frigid Brazilian winters.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      Actually in some parts of the country it does get near freezing….I’ve been up to Campos do Jordao by motorcycle in summer and it can get in the low 60′s. I believe they do occasionally have snow in winter. There might not be a BIG market for heated seats, but even if there isn’t, it would be great as a practical joke driving through the north/northeast with an un-aware friend in November (Belem comes to mind) and turning on the heated seats without telling them.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Did GM raise the ride height of this vehicle for Brasil? It looks like it’s in 4×4 mode.

    • 0 avatar

      Good catch sir! Great eyes.

      Yes, they jacked it up (how much, am looking for info, havent’ found yet). It is standard procedure for any and every import into Brazil so they can protect the tender and exposed parts in the undercarriage. Has to do with the God-awful quality of pavement in Brazil. Not to mention the absurdly high speed bumps,holes, misaligned concrete slabs…You get the picture

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      Heated seats = hot air… Do the math.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      I’d skip the 18″ wheels if the pavement were that bad. If the hardware is the same as the G6, I think you can go down to 16″ wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      In Brazil the car industry uses a word for it. They call it “tropicalization”. The jacked up suspension, harder or softer springs, fatter or not bushings and all the little minute changes a car must have to ride well here. Not to mention the work done to the engine to be able to run on Brazilian gasoline (which contains an average of 25% of ethanol, and this can vary from anything between 20-29% depending on the ethanol producers’ lobbying and needs).

      And I agree as to the wheels. But in the beginning I don’t nelieve it’ll be an option. And I checked GM’s Brazil site, and no mention yet of the car there.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @lilpoindexter: It looks like a bad photochop. Usually GM Photographic doesn’t do this bad of a job, but wow… It really looks like someone chopped in 20′s on an LTZ.

      As for the rest of the convo, why is it a bad thing to bring the Malibu to Brazil? Even if the new car is six months away from release, the car Brazilians are getting are ones that have been built for a while and fairly well sorted out. It’s not uncommon for these multinational companies to have widely varying product across different continents; I’d love to have a new Chevy Lumina, but until I move to Saudi Arabia I’m out of luck.

    • 0 avatar

      Will GM have the fortitude and dedication to keep a line open in a US plant for about 800 cars a month? That’s the question.

  • avatar

    Well the current Malibu is no dog either. I fail to see how it would fair that badly compared to a Fusion or Azera.

    Perhaps GM won’t roll out the new Malibu in Brazil as quickly as the US anyways. You never know what those guys are thinking. Maybe a Centennial edition Malibu is in the works, lol.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, my point in this was to say, why now? The car per se is almost a dream car down here, and believe me, it’ll have a following in Brazil, and will be drooled over, and might even take 1st place from the Ford Fusion (specially if Brazilians ignore it’ll go out of production in less than a year)in its market segment down here.

      But it only makes sense if they intend to keep it going at least 2 or 3 years. If they keep it for a shorter period, they’ll do great damage to a brand that is bruised (as of late), but is in no way as bad a shape as in the US.

      The way it’s going, they’ll just piss off many a well-off and opinion-making car buyer. Couldn’t they have waited 6 months?

    • 0 avatar

      Never question The General!

      My bet is they are going to keep the old body style for a while longer in Brazil. After all when the 2004 Malibu was introduced they kept producing the previous model and called it the Classic and sold it to fleets. Maybe they have something like that in mind.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes sir! No questions sir!

      LOL!

      Now seriously. I highly suspect you’re on to something. If that’s the case, GM might just have a winner. But it’ll have to be the loaded version for that price. No strippo-rentals. That won’t do, and if they try, great damage to the General again.

      We’ll keep an eye on developments.

  • avatar
    tasbro

    What makes you think a new Malibu is coming out in 6 months?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what all the internet rumor and banter have been suggesting. Or is this all wrong? How soon is it coming? It can’t be more than a year.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      I’m pretty sure the new Malibu is a 2012 (according to Car and Driver). That puts it 18 months away from being in the wild.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Exactly. 12-18 months, depending on when they do the launch.

      I’d personally bet on it being shown at Detroit in January, and then getting to the dealer lots sometime late spring, roughly a year from now.

    • 0 avatar

      So, a year. Maximum a year and a half. And maybe they’ll have enough leftovers to sell in Brazil for what? 3 months. By then the new car will have appeared in car rags and the internet. Don’t think many Brazilians will pick up the discontinued car. Not in this price bracket. People who can afford 50k USD for a car are, to say it lightly, infrmed. What are the people who buy this car going to do? Probably face some massive depreciation. And not be happy by that. Safe to say that the General has messed up.

  • avatar
    NN

    This Malibu is a good car, and a clean design that wears well, in my opinion. I drove one and found it to be more upscale in comparison to the Fusion, although the Fusion is sportier. Still, it’s a crime to have to pay $50k for it.

    An additional 10k sales/year for GM won’t hurt. $25k x 10k = $250m, which isn’t an insignificant amount of revenue, even for GM. My guess is that it will be GM’s biggest US export to Brazil??

    I believe that the old Chevy Blazer (the one we got rid of in 2002) is still made in Brazil, and is considered a high-end vehicle with a strong following. Is this true, Marcelo? If so, what are the redeeming qualities that people think this thing has? I actually still own an old 1998 2 door ZR2 Blazer as my beater vehicle, and the drivetrain is very reliable and runs great at 160k miles, but everything else is basically pure sh!+

    • 0 avatar

      We also get a version of the Chevy Traverse, I think. Here (I think its built in Mexico) its called a Captiva and sells about 1300 a month. It comes w/ the same 2.4 as the Malibu, plus a V6. And it has taken over the old Blazer’s place as a high-end vehicle.

      The old Blazer is still produced and sold in Brazil. But it no longer catches anybody’s attention. I guess it now mainly goes to police departments, fleets and budget-minded consumers. I also suspect it does pretty well in more rural areas and the northern and northeastern parts of the country, where its construction (body on frame) has a lot going for it due to road conditions. But in cities, and as a high-end car, those days are long gone.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      I check from time to time the .br sites of auto companies to see what is going to be sold here in the future. Being said that…

      Your Captiva is more related to the Opel Antara or the Chevrolet (daewoo-based) Captiva than the Traverse.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for correction Stingray. You’re right!

  • avatar
    Stingray

    “But, GM seems late to the party”

    No Marcelo, they already offer the Omega (Commodore) there. Yes it’s V6, etc…

    Unless they want to replace it with the Malibu or slot the Malibu between the Omega and your Astra-based Vectra. My bet is for the latter.

    In any case, you’re still producing the Corsa 2 (as Classic, Celta and who knows what else), Corsa 3, old Astra (rebodied), Meriva and Zafira (from the 1850 model year, yeah I got these people mañas too). Adding the old Malibu, which wouldn’t be that obsolete down here is not that bad.

    It can happen too, that they continue producing it, maybe in Mexico or Brazil for 3rd world markets and replace the awful Daewoo-based Epica with it. That 4 cyl figures you poested > I-6 in the Epica.

    That car still looks good, and better than Camry, Accord, Fusion and Sonata.

    They have done similar stuff here. They launched the Optra along the Astra for testing, and then replaced the Astra with the Optra. And they were right, the Optra (or Costra, as some people call it here) was cheaper for them and the customers. It replaced the Corolla as the Nº1 car in its segment.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Stingray!

      They’ll slot it in between Vectra (astra) and Omega. But the Omega’s sales are puny. And this car (Malibu) has a chance to sell betwee500 to 1000 per month. Enough to justify local production? We’ll see.

      As to Corsa 2, don’t forget Prizma, the Celta sedan, or the Corsa 2,5 (or 3) the Montana pick up

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Bien, ¿ves?, very easy entonces.

      Those b@#~%&s made their homework right. At those volumes I see local CKD assembly, which I guess will make it less expensive there.

      What bothers me is why they took 3 years to make it. Maybe the market right now has the right conditions, namely lots of sales, who knows. I’ve seen similar actions here when the market expands.

      You and the Argentinean got the Corsa 3 and we got the Aveo *sigh*. The Montana I’ve seen here seems legit Corsa 3 to me

  • avatar

    @Stingray Yes, 3 years. That’s why they’re late. But CKD is “almost” prohibited in Brazil and won’r be done by GM ’cause of cost. There must be a high degree of local content. If you do a strict CKD, you can do it, but all of the production done that way must then be exported. Forbidden to be sold in Brazil. It has happened w/ Merceds-Benz. They used to do it at their plant here. Then the car was re-exported to Germany and re-imported into Brazil. The car was that C something coupe. The one with the weird rear window.

    As to the Corsa, it looks 3, but is in reality a shell of the 3, but the platform is a slightly modified 2. Pretty sure of that. And to prove Brazilians aren’t complete fools, when they tried to pull that in the market, the Corsa was totally and utterly rejected. THe Corsa now sells at the same levels of Clio and 207s. When it was a real “Corsa”, it competed w/ the Palio and the Gol for 1st place. SOmething that the Celta, which as you know is a cheapened Corsa 1 never obtained.

    Alas, as elsewhere GM has problems in the small car market (this market belongs to VW and Fiat down here). Let’s hope they don’t f*** up the big car market, in which they are still the one.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Marcelo, about the Corsa, let put some things clear. Corsa 1 is the square one, I don’t know if it ever was sold in Brazil (here it didn’t), Corsa 2 is the 1st rounded one (sold here and everywhere and still in production in some places in original or facelifted form), Corsa 3 is the one that appears (at least in shape) in your .br Chevy site, Corsa 4 is the one currently being sold in Europe (which looks awesome in OPC form, not so much in normal trim levels, saw them in Frankfurt last year).

      About the CKD, what would be the % of local content required? You could easily reach 20-30% of local content and still be profitable, and this reasoning holds true down there where the industry is further developed. Tyres, wheels, brakes, suspension components, glasses, seats, carpets, battery are some of the parts that could be “easily” localized. GM made a version of the Ecotec there, maybe assembling the engines with some local parts would be feasible.

      It is very sad that they screwed up with the Corsa 3 (and worse they didn’t send them here). Judging by the Montana I’ve seen here, it was a big improvement over the 2.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Can a Chevy command that sort of price premium, even tho it’s loaded? Given what’s going on with Ford, they might get themselves in a real bind if Ford does follow through and make world platforms. Wouldn’t it be a shock to have a car that was the same on all the continents at the same time?

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Ah, watching GM mess up in key emerging markets for fun and profit. I love nothing else.

    • 0 avatar

      And in a key market. That sells 3 million cars now and is projected to reach the 5million sale threshold in 2014 and so the makers are making their plans accordingly. So GM will anger some influential people. This will have an effect throughout the market. Brazilians might just maybe learn that Chevy is no luxury car. Hoe can GM be happy damaging such cachet? It’s sad. And it makes me sad.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    What, no 3.6 for the Brazilians? Better their country than mine.


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